Late to the Party…again

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Why am I always late to the party? And by party I mean Mad Men.  I am currently binge watching this series. It fascinates me. As one of those kids who were born in the 60’s I watch this show and look at the mothers, fathers and society and think “wow, that sure explains my childhood”.

I am one of those moms who loves her children fiercely, wanted to be the one who raised them so made huge sacrifices to be a stay at home mom. At the time, I thought I was sacrificing things. Hindsight is an amazing thing. This is not true, We survived just fine without ‘things’. What I sacrificed in many ways was me. The intellectual me. The self-esteem me. The me who did things a certain way to get through the day and now it is an expectation of those around me to keep it up. HA…that’s not going so well. I created monsters and now am trying to undo all those things – like dinner ready at 5, like ultra planned events, like parties where details are lovely.

I pretty much have unzipped that persona and stepped into the new me where I am usually still studying at 5, food is fuel – you don’t see dinner? Make it yourself – you are capable because I taught you. Parties? How about we meet at a restaurant? That way I don’t have to care about what my house looks like. I have pretty much become a man of the 60’s. I would love a 60’s house wife…but who wouldn’t?

I had a grandmother who had 5 children. She did house work and cooked but always changed into a nice dress and but on makeup before my grandfather came home. She said he worked hard and it was the woman’s job to pamper the man and to put herself together and look nice for him. Dinner’s ready, wife is cute, children are sparkling… wow.

This is not something I ever did. Should I have? Would it have made a difference?

Did the man actually appreciate what the woman did? Not sure. It isn’t like that on Mad Men. It is an expectation. It was an expectation of my grandfather too. My father just expected food and quiet. At the end of his day, he needed 30 minutes of solitude before dinner. I soooooo understand that. He never cooked, actually, the time my mom was in the hospital, he did cook. Once. I then took over cooking duties. How can you expect someone to do something well if they had never been taught? Or had time to practice? You can’t…or shouldn’t…. just teach them. Now that dad is retired he is starting to learn, but mom still makes all the meals and looks after him that way. I suspect it has more to do with her feelings for him then it being an obligation because I learned about feminism from my mom. Besides, my mom really and truly loves to cook.

Not me.

I HATE COOKING. I hate being a restaurant. I detest cooking meat.

I fail as a housewife of the 60’s.

I am cool with that.

But what I didn’t anticipate is how I feel about the men of the 60’s.

I like their assertiveness. I like their vulnerability. They were the providers and it was stressful. That isn’t an expectation anymore, it is a shared burden. As difficult as it is for men now, I think it might have been harder for them in the 60’s. Aside from the condescending attitudes towards women, I really think bearing the brunt of all financial matters was a tough position to be in.

So I watch Mad Men with a keen sense of nostalgia and it has my childhood making perfect sense…the the 70’s came along and ruined everything from weird attitudes to fashion. The 70’s and 80’s were just wrong.

Do I wish I was an adult in the 60’s? No…I prefer the hierarchy of today.

However, the fashion was kick-ass…I miss that kind of swanky luxury.download

What is it about “NO” that you don’t understand?

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When I was little, I was the “Queen of Natter”. My Dad, who was a teacher,would sit in his chair reading the paper after a very long day at school. The unspoken rule was to give Dad 30 minutes of peace and quiet before you could talk to him.  He needed serious decompression time. As an adult, I completely understand that now. At the time, it never made sense. How could he not be excited and anxious to hear about my day? I could hardly wait to tell him the dramas the occurred in my life or ask him for answers to the most bizarre questions imaginable. He would give me “the Look”. You know the one, every parent has one. The look that tells you, you have gone to far or over stepped boundaries. I would simply ignore it and keep on with the “Dad, Dad, Dad…”

As I became older, I would take my Dad’s self-imposed quiet time and ask permission for things. Dad being distracted, would often say sure. So, I started being more bold with my requests. One day I asked for the car, for no other reason then just to cruise around. My parents were very generous about letting me use the car and about curfews. The only real rule was it had to have purpose. Staying out late to hang around 7-11 was a big fat no. Staying out late to go to a movie or a hockey game was a yes. They explained to me that a teen without purpose, was trouble waiting to happen. I could see their point. But I WANTED to just hang out or drive around. This had no purpose so the answer was NO. By trying to catch my dad unaware, nattering at him to death, I was hoping I could wear him down and he would agree to handing over the keys. “Dad, Dad, Dad….but Daaaaaad” The Newspaper would fold down one corner and his eye would peer at me. “Robyn, what is it about NO that you don’t understand?” Thus ended my chance of getting the car that day. I could hear the weariness in his voice and it would end with a sigh, a shuffle of papers, and that was my cue to leave because there would be no further discussion.

I learned that No means No. Who are we kidding. That only applied to my Dad. When he said No, he meant No. So if that was a lesson learned by me, why can I not apply it to my own life? Maybe it is a control thing or I am just so bossy people have figured out a way to manipulate me.

In my private life, at home with my Honey and the Offspring, No is a word that I use frequently. “mom can I….”  “NO”. I can hear myself saying the word before their question even gets answered. dialogue usually goes like this:

Offspring: Mom…

Me: No

Offspring: But Mom…

Me: No

Offspring: But I haven’t even asked…

Me: No

I find this interchange quite humorous because it frustrates them. I do eventually listen to them, and sometimes the answer is still no. The Offspring are getting very good a building convincing arguments as to why they should be allowed. So I let them win if it is a compelling argument.

I find saying no to my mother or sister very hard. Maybe because I want to please them, or it’s the family first concept that makes it hard to resist. I will have 258 things piled high on my plate of things to do, Mom or Sis ask me to do one more, and I answer – sure. I sometimes go away feeling angry that they aren’t doing it themselves. Mostly I don’t mind, deep down I know they will always do for me when I ask. So it is give and take.

Saying “no” to people I work with and to people I volunteer with is harder. Sometimes it just does not occur to me to say no. Again it must be that caretaker complex or the need to be in control. I am finding that the more I learn about policy and procedure, the more people ask me for the answer. Just as easy to ask me the to find out for yourself. I must admit, I like that. I enjoy the feeling of having the answers. Because I understand what needs to be done, I will often do it before it is required. Then someone says, oh I need to do… and I say, I did that already. Seriously, I need therapy for my control issues! What possesses  me to do all the work? How dare I complain about how much I do! I bring it all on myself. My “partner in crime” ( and when I say partner in crime, I mean friend and colleague, a mirror image of myself, two peas in a pod, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Mutt and Jeff…) was very good at telling me to let it go, or don’t do it. Even the other day, she emailed me and said “um…why are YOU doing that?” Huh…good point. WHY AM I doing that?

Why indeed…

Time to fix that. I am going to focus on my position. Do it well, help if I can, be a team player. I have learned that I am not a team player if I do it all. A team player works with strengths and weakness of the team and we bring out the best in each other. So far, I think I am doing much better at using No. I also don’t volunteer so quickly. I need to relax and let others succeed and fail. If I find that too stressful, I’ll just have another coffee and continue on.

So the next stop on the Edmonton Tourist’s route is accepting the process and not worrying about being right. I see this as my biggest challenge to date.

Wish me luck…